Blakeson - Writer

Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Mercy Seat / Mercury

I was lucky enough to squeeze into Chapter’s packed Media Point last night, for the Welsh premiere of Neil LaBute’s post 9/11 piece “The Mercy Seat”. Presented as a pleasingly mobile rehearsed reading, directed by Gareth Potter, one suspects that with its high-concept plot - an adulterous N.Y.C. couple contemplate using the Twin Towers disaster as a cover for running away together - the audience might have been expecting some faux-liberal, hand-wringing demolition of American values. LaBute, however, is cleverer than that. Instead of the War on Terror, the play’s true subject was a more universal and immutable one – the War Between Men And Women. In fact, the play was at its weakest when attempting to explicitly analyse American-ness, being far more acute when LaBute concentrated on his hot topic – the awful things that boys and girls say and do to one another. Of course, there is a geo-political metaphor:- I remember a quote about Rev. Sydney Smith, who is said to have observed two women shouting at one another from opposite windows and remarked that they would never agree, because they were arguing from different premises; maybe relationships between the sexes, like relations between nations, only succeed when both parties are operating according to similar assumptions, needs and aspirations. Both Lisa Palfrey, as (ostensibly) the senior partner, and Dean Rehman handled LaBute’s legendarily indelicate dialogue admirably (although I think there were a few references they were unfamiliar with), and built up a real sense of tender bitterness. The play was presented as part of Michael Kelligan’s new On The Edge season, and with our entrance fee, as a slap in the face to Islamic Fundamentalism, everyone also got a voucher for a free pint of Vale Of Glamorgan beer. Or maybe it was just a sponsorship thing. In any case, it was much needed after a tense and sweaty but highly stimulating 100 minutes of dramatic genius.

Hats off the The Klaxons for winning the Mercury Music Prize, even though I was rooting for Bat For Lashes. It was heartening to note that most of the nominees were making music which couldn’t have existed, say, five years ago. And even those that weren’t (e.g. Fionn Regan, Young Knives), do their thing with some style. Although I respect Amy Winehouse (I was lucky enough to win a competition to see her playing at Cardiff Barfly a couple of years ago, and was struck by how small and normal she seemed whilst wandering around in her jogging bottoms and bendy curlers before she went on), I’m pleased she didn’t win – she’d only have spent the money on sweeties and fizzy pop, or whatever it is young people are into these days.


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